Last year was a banner year for the Port of Tacoma.
Fueled by surges in international trade and diverted cargo from Southern California, the port posted a range of records, from the number of containers passing through Tacoma to total tonnage of grain shipped to Asia.
In the midst of the growth the port spent $95 million on construction projects, including three new or renovated marine terminals.
"Overall, it was a fantastic year," Tim Farrell, the port's executive director, said Tuesday.
The hiring of hundreds of new longshore workers was key in managing that growth, he said. So were new efficiencies in transporting the goods, such as increasing the lengths of trains leaving the port from 6,000 feet to 7,000 feet.
And all this growth won't be stopping any time soon. To keep up, the port plans on accelerating construction projects aimed at keeping cargo moving in and out quickly.
Here's a review of the port's record year by the numbers:
The total number of containers coming through the port in 2005.
Behind the numbers: It's the largest number the port has seen and includes a 20 percent increase in international containers from the previous year driven by - you guessed it - China, the port's largest trading partner in volume. Domestic containers, headed primarily to Alaska, increased by 1.3 percent.
What's next: Forecasts by the port show the growth continuing this year, with a projected 16 percent growth in total containers by the end of 2006.
The total tons of grain shipped out of the port last year, also a record.
Behind the numbers: Doug Ljungren, the port's business planning manager, said all this grain is corn and soybeans from the upper Midwest. Bumper crops of the grains and a high demand for American corn and soybeans have pushed this number up. Also grain that typically traveled down the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico was diverted west after last year's hurricanes.
A Tacoma advantage: Rates for shipping grain from the Pacific Northwest have tended to be cheaper, another factor that is likely causing additional shippers to look toward Tacoma's port.
The number of hours worked by longshore workers at the Port of Tacoma in 2005.
Behind the numbers: This is an increase of 640,000 hours from the previous year. To keep up with the port's growth, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 23 brought in 790 new workers last year.
What's next: The union already has called more than 100 people from its waiting list of workers this year, said Conrad Spell, the union's president.
The total tons of cargo that moved through the port.
Behind the numbers: The record number includes containers as well as the other types of cargo the port handles, such as hundreds of thousands of cars, military equipment, tractors, grain and wood chips.
The number of automobiles that came through the port in 2005, a 13.6 percent decrease from 2004.
Behind the numbers: Problems in the automobile business, including recalls of Mitsubishi vehicles and a fire at a Mazda plant in Japan, caused the drop, according to the port.
The number of containers lifted on and off trains in the port, which is also a record.
Behind the numbers: The increase in containers means an increase in work for the rail lines. Roughly 70 percent of the containers that come through the port arrive or leave by train. The port anticipates its intermodal lifts to grow by another 20 percent this year.
What's next: The port has scheduled $9.8 million worth of improvements to the port's two main rail junctions to help move the trains in and out of the port faster.
Heavy Lifting and More to Come
The News Tribune, February 1, 2006
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